News and Views from the world wanderings of Pj Kwong.  Finally!  A place for all of the things I write and think about!

Posted By SkatingPj

Elvis Stojko and Pj's Book
As a writer, it is a blessing when you come across people who know how to give good talk. The 3 time World champion and 2 time Olympic silver medallist Elvis Stojko is one of those people. Like him or hate him, the man is an original, doesn't ever drive me crazy by giving me the what I call the "I'm giving it 100%" answer, nor does he back away from any questions. 

For this catch-up, I went to Richmond Hill where he and wife Gladys Orozko-Stojko were on the ice. They had been in Toronto for a good portion of the summer teaching and Elvis was also keeping in shape for the many shows he still does.

"The body always follows the mind"

Elvis' way of thinking about things is to competely eradicate the negative from his mind."As a competitor one of the biggest mistakes people make is to worry about what other people think and it can be a huge distraction. The truth is many people who are negative don't have the guts themselves to do something."

I like the way that when he talks about young skaters it is in a protective way - wanting to help them benefit from the lessons that he has learned. "The strategy for skaters has to be to consistently keep skating. You can't stop. You have to continuously make the muscles go through what they have to go through in order to be able to make things happen."  As a coach and a man who still performs as well as offering seminars, he has this to say: "Consistency in performance is what would contribute to the sucess of more skaters." He counsels: "Stop worrying about the outcome of the event and what is expected of you and focus more on what your own goals are."

Elvis' shares his point of view regarding the sport this way: "Every aspect of this sport is subjective. the thing is when you do well, you are liked and I don't think searching for approval from the outside is the way. The key factor is to not fall into the trap and to follo your own path." good advice from a man who is well known for marching to the beat of his own drum.

In Elvis' time as an amateur skater, there were lots of 'characters' and we talked about the fact that under the current system which he feels is controlled at every level giving the appearance that many of the skaters are looking the same. "I think that too much structure isn't a good thing and there has to be room for the skaters to have freedom of expression."

We both agree that skating is like everything else and has peaks and valleys as it contunes to evole. For his part, Elvis is still very much involved and skating 'his way' to excited crowds in packed arenas as his schedule confirms:

October 29 7pm Progressive Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular at iWireless Centre Moline, Il air date: NBC january 2012; November 18 7pm
Kaleidoscope at Bojangles Coliseum Charlotte, NC air date: Fox November 24 4:30pm eastern follow NFL game cancer awareness - tribute to cancer survivors;
December 18 Bathurst, NB; December 19 St John, NB; January 1st 2pm Symphony on Ice Mclintyre Arena Timmins, ON -100th anniversary celebration; February 15
Rock the Ice III Peterborough, ON

According to Elvis, success is a process with the mental preparation aspects playing a key role. It would appear as if some things haven't changed.


@@@Lots More great videos on Pj's YouTube channel: PjKwongWordbroker@@@

Posted By SkatingPj

I finally got the chance to sit down for a chat with former Italian Ice Dance champion and current coach and choreographer Pasquale Camerlengo. Truth be told, I saw him first while he was still a skater in the early 1990s and am delighted for his well-deserved success. He got as high as 6th in the world and placed 5th at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France skating with partner Stefania Calegari - so he knows a thing or two about competing at the elite level.

He first started creating a buzz with interesting and original choreography as part of his own programs. When he made the decision to retire after Worlds in Prague in 1993, almost immediately  the late Carlo Fassi contacted him to ask him his plans. Pasquale wasn't sure what  he would be doing exactly but had already thought about coaching. With a gentle nudge from Fassi asking him how much he would charge for choreography, he was put to work the very next day. Pasquale is a thoughtful man; intent on finding the perfect work to express his ideas. I get the feeling that he is the same on the ice; the steps carefully chosen to express the program idea, concept or theme. "The difference between being a skater and a choreographer is: as a skater, everything is done for you. As a coach/choreographer, everything is done for others. You can't be selfish and be a choreographer."

It is because of Carlo and his wife Christa's encouragement that Pasquale thought about the move to the United States. "They always mentioned the US and how great the possibilities would be there because there are many more rinks and many more skaters". He now makes his coaching base in the Detroit area along side wife and coaching partner, two-time World ice dance champion Anjelika Krylova. "I am here because of Anjelika. She built her life here and already had everything: a house, rink, life. Did you know that she is the only one to win world medals in ice dance with 2 different partners?" he says with pride.

It didn't take long for Pasquale's work to catch on as he started with Stanick Jeanette and Georghe Chipeur but in my opinion it was his work with Daisuke Takahashi that really put him on the map. "I got an email from Daisuke's agent 4 years ago asking me if I could do some choreography for him. Anjelika saw the email first - I couldn't believe it when she told me." Focused on his work he says: "I can say that everything really started from there. It was then that I got the commitments from a lot of big skaters."

With the amount of choreography that he is doing, he also finds the time to put coaching front and center and is responsible for Canada's Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje and France's Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat among others. "I have learned as a coach to keep the balance on everything and it's a very hard thing. The relationship between a coach and skaters is to keep the balance in work, motivation and to create chemistry."

His advice for skaters? "Listen to your heart. We know what is right and often cannot explain why."

For Pasquale, skating is "about expressing." When asked how he would describe himself, he says: "I am Pasquale. I am myself."

A simple statement about a complex, confident and visionary man. I am sure there is lots more to write in this book. Stay tuned :)


 @@@ Pj has more great videos on YouTube: PjKwongWordBroker @@@

Posted By SkatingPj

Hi everyone - this story is too beautiful to not share...Sarah just turned 9 yrs old 2 weeks ago and is one of my skaters and she has been busy over the last month with her 4th annual Food Drive to benefit the Toronto Daily Bread Food Bank - I originally told her story on my blog - check closer to the bottom of the page or check out her web page: ...I just received the following email from Mom Lynda...(Did I mention that Sarah just turned 9?????) 

"Okay...sit down...
Do not read this while driving or operating heavy equipment.
Sarah's 4th Annual Food Drive results
Sarah's goal was to raise 1 tonne of food.
Here are the totals:
508 pounds ( from our street, friends, family and from North Toronto Skating Club)
1870 from Sarah's School
2286 from Tremblett's Valu Mart ( including 25 turkey dinners)
4664 pounds of food
In addition, she raised just under 2K in cash, which the Daily Bread Food Bank counts every dollar as a pound of food.
All in, cash and food donations:
drum roll please.....
3 tonnes of food.
Can you believe it???
We can't. We are all in shock.
Not too sure if you heard her, but Gail Nyberg was on CBC Radio today and was talking about Sarah. She was talking about the great work that Sarah has done. It was awesome!"

Great work indeed!!  Way to go Sarah -  If this is what you are doing at 9 - I can't wait to see what you will be doing 10 years from now!!

What a great way to end my Thanksgiving ...Thanks to the fans and families who helped support this cause...and thanks to Sarah for letting me part of this!

Sarah - the newest and maybe best example of what a Skating Warrior Princess can do (she just got named to this very select group)...would like to challenge everyone else to do their best this week!!

The Power of One. :)

Pj :)

Posted By SkatingPj

Vaughn Chipeur and Amanda Avila
Last time I saw Olympian Vaughn Chipeur, it was at a social function in Vancouver during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games when he confided in me that he wouldn't be attending Worlds in Torino, Italy. (See?  I CAN keep a secret and for a long time too!) Turns out that he had injured the ligaments in his right foot so severely that it was recommended that he rest it immediately and follow it up with surgery (but only if he wanted to continue walking <lol>) He says: "I landed a triple flip in December of '09 when I was training for Canadians and I heard a pop." Typical Vaughn - he persevered.  He was in so much pain that in the Olympic Village, he had an MRI and recounts: "They said 'it's a good thing you didn't compete because there was no fluid between the joints.' And I said, but I did compete' and nobody could believe it." He managed the Olympics with lots of physio before, during and after his practice sessions. When he really sought a medical opinion, he was advised that competing at Worlds three weeks after Vancouver could mean that he might not continue walking.

Not surprisingly, elite athletes seem to have the extraordinary ability to put aside their physical selves in order to accomplish the task at hand. After talking to Skate Canada people to discuss not competing at Worlds, Vaughn left for home on the Monday after the Games.  He went to the rink on Tuesday and found that he couldn't make it across the ice because of the intense pain. It would appear that once he had accepted that this was serious, he allowed the reality of the pain to seep into his consciousness meaning he couldn;t skate where he had been able to just a few days before. This is a case of mind over matter like so many others in the sports world.

So if your life isn't about Worlds happening in the next 3 weeks and you have to change gears, what will it be? "Now what? At that point, I still didn't decide to retire. I took 4 months off for the first time in my life."

it seems from speaking with Vaughn that the decision to retire happened in stages.  He decided just a few days before scheduled surgery that it wasn't the solution for him. "As much as anything I needed the break." Aside from some "noises" in his feet when he lands jumps, he says now he is in good shape.

Skating is...."my job" and the way that Vaughn now makes his living. Currently on the cruise circuit with Royal Caribbean, Vaughn continues to be a contradiction in terms: from enjoying physical pursuits like sky diving and bungee jumping he is interested in the emotional and is considering an education in psychology with a view to becoming a clinical psychologist.

He would advise anyone pursuing a career in skating "Skating is a long road. Don't get into skating for the short haul." He and coach Scott Davis had a plan that worked for them and that was for Vaughn to "skate as directed." Vaughn says "skating is one of the few sports that noone in the word can do well competitively skating at a recreational level." True enough. So, skating at a competitive level like he did, what was the secret to Vaughn achieving his dream of competing at the Olympics? "I skated as directed." he said with a chuckle.

The best gift skating has given Vaughn? His relationship with singer Amanda Avila pictured here, whom he met on the cruise ship.

More from Vaughn:

Don't forget LOTS more videos on Pj's YouTube ChannelPjKwongWordBroker

Posted By SkatingPj

How many times have I said that working in skating is like being part of a family? A lot! Almost without question, one of the biggest thrills is catching up with a former student; even more so when thay have made it to the national stage. Alexandra Najarro is one of those kids for me. The little girl I worked with about 10 years ago when her mother, Eva, and I coached together in Mississauga was tiny, determined, talented, with a quick smile, an intensity and a work ethic  that would come to define her competitive streak.

For many people, her debut into our collective consciousness came at last year's Canadian Championships where she was dazzling in her Short program and finished in 2nd and in 4th overall.  For many Alexandra was 'the spoiler' and the skater that inspired the competitiveness in the final flight of Ladies at Nationals.

Catching up with Alexandra after the FSB Thornhill Summer Skate competition I got the sense that although there are other aspects to her life, like wanting to become a lawyer at the end of her studies at Toronto's York University, for the moment skating is front and centre. She can easily talk about other hobbies like watching and playing tennis and enjoying crafting while continuing to engage her brain in the 'how to's of improving footwork and adding to her jump inventory in skating.  In other words, despite what else may be going on, she is very 'present' in her skating life, constantly balancing it all by establishing priorities.

In this season,  she was assigned to compete at the Junior Grand Prix in Australia after which she will be focusing on her Senior prorgams in order to be ready for the Challenge and Canadian national events.

"Skating is exhilirating and fun and very exciting for me." says Najarro who continues "I love to move to music. I love to perform."  It shows.

Olympic Champion Yu-Na Kim is Alexandra's role model: "I really like the fact that she has the 'full package.' It is Kim's example that offers her the need for better consistency, stronger focus and a triple/triple combination. 

This year's short program is the same as last but the free is brand new. Alexandra is skating to The Black Swan in a program choreographed by Myke Gilman which should deliver on her ability to perform.

Former Canadian Champion, Tracey Wainman knows a thing or two about performing and provides the base coaching for Alexandra. Between them, they are working on achieving clean and consistent triples including new-ish Loops and Lutzes in competition, footwork at a higher level and skating skills. Alexandra says: "I want to improve from last year as far as my speed and flow are concerned."

I would like to take credit for Alexandra's success at the Senior level from the amazing Ten-Fox  dance lessons I gave her all those years ago...I would like to...BUT...I can't. 

Alexandra Najarro a great example of creating success on her own terms: hard work, dedication and talent.


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